Hundreds of Artists Urge Venice Biennale to Drop ‘Genocidal’ Israeli Pavilion: ‘No Death in Venice’

Hundreds of artists have signed an open letter that calls on the Venice Biennale, the world’s top art festival, to drop Israel’s national pavilion this year. In continuing to mount the Israeli Pavilion, the artists say, “the Biennale is platforming a genocidal apartheid state.”

Current Biennale participants and past ones alike signed the letter, as did Turner Prize winners, widely acclaimed artists, and at least one curator of a major international biennial.

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The letter comes as the death toll in Gaza since the October 7 Hamas attack approaches 30,000, according to the local health ministry.

Following the Hamas attack, which killed 1,200 Israelis and involved the taking of more than 200 hostages, Israel has repeatedly led airstrikes and a ground invasion on Gaza. The country is expected to soon invade Rafah, a city in southwestern Gaza where an estimated 1.5 million Palestinians are sheltering.

The open letter said that Israel’s military action in Gaza was tantamount to “genocide” and called for a ceasefire.

“As the art world readies itself to visit the Giardini’s nation-state diorama, we say platforming art representing a state engaged in ongoing atrocities against Palestinians in Gaza is unacceptable. No Genocide Pavilion at the Venice Biennale,” the letter said.

Moreover, the letter claimed that the Biennale had created a “double standard” by speaking out in favor of Ukraine after it was invaded by Russia in 2022 while having not yet made a statement on Gaza. (Russia did not participate in the 2022 Biennale, and will once again not have a pavilion this year.)

A Venice Biennale spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

Israel, which has a permanent structure for its pavilions in the heavily trafficked Giardini venue, is this year set to be represented by Ruth Patir. In October, Patir and curators Mira Lapidot and Tamar Margalit said they were “stunned and terrified” by the Hamas attack and added, “Our immense sense of grief is compounded by profound worry about the escalating humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and extends to the tragic loss of lives there, and what’s still to come.”

Meanwhile, Faisal Saleh, the director of the Palestine Museum US, which staged an officially sanctioned exhibition alongside the 2022 Venice Biennale, said that his proposal for a show this year was rejected. There will, however, be a collateral event that does include Palestinian artists that is not organized by that institution.

Saleh was among the signatories of this open letter. Patir, Lapidot, and Margalit declined to comment.

Alongside Saleh were others who have spoken out in favor of Palestine: photographer Nan Goldin, who publicly canceled a New York Times project, claiming the publication had a “complicity with Israel”; artist Mike Parr, who was reportedly dropped by his Australian gallerist after staging a performance that mentioned Israel and Palestine; and David Velasco, who was fired as editor of Artforum after the publication ran an artists’ open letter calling for a ceasefire. (Artforum is owned by Penske Media Corporation, the parent company that also owns ARTnews and Art in America.)

Jesse Darling, the winner of last year’s Turner Prize, also signed the letter, as did artists such as Carolina Caycedo, Meriem Bennani, Naeem Mohaiemen, Frieda Toranzo Jaeger, Ahmed Morsi, and Katja Novitskova.


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